Computer Arts: You trained in dance and choreography. Why move to animation?
Carolina Melis: I went to Dartington College of Arts, where I studied dance and choreography, and then the London Contemporary Dance School. In dance the word choreography means both the actual performance - how movement is organised across time and space, as well as the dance notation: the score. There's a whole discussion about how to notate body movement - written notations aren't always the best way, so I thought animation could be a good alternative. After my degree I started a Master in Performance Writing to develop this idea further. I got quite into it and did a Masters at Central Saint Martins in Illustration and Moving Image.
CA: Does choreography and dance influence your animation work?
CM: A lot. One example - at first I was rarely using edit cuts, in a live performance you wouldn't have a cut, but a transition. I still get a bit uncomfortable with cuts.
CA: Tell us about your illustration work. How do you create your artwork and what inspires the imagery?
CM: I have an obsession for details and miniatures. Usually I start with a little mark and then I add a bit more. I change style and technique all the time, but there are certain types of imagery that I find myself doing again and again. In my films, as well as my illustrations, I often have something about to fall - something heavy pending from something very thin, for example.
CA: How do you work?
CM: My favourite technique is to improvise, but I can only do it when I work by myself on my own projects. When I did the video for the musician Colleen, for instance, I didn't storyboard or plan anything. I started with one illustration and every day I was working from the last frame from the day before. At the end of it I didn't like what I had done and played the whole thing backwards - it was better.
CA: How did you win the animate! commission and what was the thinking behind that piece?
CM: It was a collaboration with Susanne Flender. We were thinking about ways an image could morph and develop in alternative ways. So we collected hundreds of drawings made by members of the public across Britain. The drawings were made through a mirroring of the Chinese Whispers game, with each drawer having to recreate the previous drawing in the series from memory. Through this process the drawing, initially one of a crow made in Brighton, travelled the length of the country and eventually made it to Aberdeen, as a man's face.